I cannot refuse intellectual pleasure and will reprint an interview with one of the most worthy popularizers of science in Russia, Stanislav Drobyshevsky – a real scientist, an excellent lecturer and author of popular science books and articles.
Drobyshevsky does not talk about sports, but talks about human evolution, diet, including the role of meat in the development of the brain – the main organ of any person, including athletes.
This spring A candidate of biological sciences, associate professor, associate professor of the anthropology department of the biological faculty of Moscow State University came to Perm with two lectures on the latest anthropological data on the origin of man. Lomonosov Stanislav Drobyshevsky. In Russia he is known as the scientific editor of the portal “Anthropogenesis. ru “, the author of the popular science book” The Reaching Link “, as well as a participant in many archaeological expeditions. We talked with him about the problems of popularizing science in Russia, about what atheism is and whether intelligence is inherited.
What is the reason for the popularity of pseudoscientific ideas in modern society and why are they constantly reproduced?
Pseudoscience is easier to think about. In order to understand scientific concepts, one must have at least some education and be able to think critically, correlate one with another and build some kind of logical chain. Pseudoscience does not need any of this. She can contradict herself all the time – and normally. The main thing is that it should be beautiful, like it, the key – believe it or not. And if a person already has some prejudices in his head, then there will always be such a pseudoscientific concept that he will like. Let it be illogical and not correlated with any facts, but if a person wants to come from, for example, a penguin, then he usually cannot be convinced in any way. And if it also concerns religion, politics, gender differences, some kind of personal self-gratification (I am the smartest and most talented, thanks to my origin, race and faith), then it finds an instant response.
In addition, there is an option pseudoscience that just makes a profit for the carriers who make money from it. And they will find a way to fool their heads: to guess on the coffee grounds, as I am doing now, on their fingers or whatever. It’s just making money: people just make money. That is, all these freaks are divided into psychos who simply went crazy; charlatans; just misguided with some kind of fix idea; the most dangerous option is scientists who have moved out, who are doing one thing, but at the same time are chasing to a completely different area. Classics of the genre – Fomenko. He is a mathematician, and, they say, even a normal mathematician, but in history he was brought somewhere in the wrong place.
Does the scientific community have any really working tools to resist this wave? I know that there is a website Anthropogenesis.ru and an annual forum Scientists against myths . How effective is all this?
No matter how cool our website and forum are, this is a very small percentage of the people. Now the site is visited by 50 thousand people. A thousand people come to the forum at once, a YouTube channel is watched, say, 100-200 thousand, and in our country about 150 million live together with migrant workers. Plus we broadcast to the entire Russian-speaking planet. But this is still a negligible percentage of what we cover. And these psychos have a much larger audience. So the only way is to raise education and promote it in some way. And you have to do it in different ways. Now we are shooting a cartoon for children, we can make comics for the very retarded, demotivators, very clever lectures, very simple lectures, some kind of vidyushki – a lot of options. The more of this, the better, and among different groups of the population.
I have performed on various freeware channels, including TV3 and Ren-TV, performed in prison, in schools. The question is that there are very few people who are really ready to do this. Strictly speaking, I am one of the popularizing anthropologists. Well, Butovskaya also, but she is more engaged in science, she has no time. It’s the same with any other science. There are two or three palentologists, at least five active archaeologists. This, of course, is about nothing. In an amicable way, this should be some kind of vigorous state program, with the allocation of hours on television, funding for museums, forums, and so on. The state is now trying to do this, but very badly. Now, for example, a commission has been formed to popularize the science of the RAS. I was even included there, I attended these meetings – it’s hopeless. Nothing will ever move in this way. The main problem is that those who have the capabilities do not have an understanding of what it needs and how to do it, and those who do it in reality usually do not have great opportunities.
As Alexey Sivukhin, the organizer of ARCHE, told me, in order for us to be visited, listened and watched a lot, we need advertising, but for this we need a lot of money and to visit a lot. It turns out to be a vicious circle. We are not visited much, because there is no advertising, and there is no advertising, because we are not visited much and there is no money for advertising. Therefore, virtually all organizers sooner or later run into this. Wherever I go, it’s the same thing. The only thing is that Sokolov (Alexander and Georgy Sokolov are scientists and popularizers of science) manages to recruit a little more, because they are PR specialists by profession, although not everyone succeeds. But a drop wears away the stone, and if you look across the country, then in all large cities there is a popularization of science. It should always be remembered that these things have a delayed effect. Nothing will change immediately. The generation that is now essentially kindergarteners must survive. If these children for 15 years live surrounded by some kind of popularization, popularizers are brought up among them and become officials, directors of museums, libraries and so on, then they will already promote this at some more fundamental level. Then there will be an effect.
If we compare today’s government measures and what was in the USSR …
I already found the USSR only in the edge childhood, but it is not comparable. When I was little, I used to go to the library a lot, and the whole of it was littered with small popular children’s books, well-kept, I still have some lines and pictures in my head. I understand that at that level it was real science.
Isn’t that now?
It is, but, firstly, it is not done purposefully: whoever did it, did it; and secondly, there is not the slightest guarantee of quality. For example, when I bought books about dinosaurs for my kids, I chose them for a very long time and diligently. 90% is just garbage. It is not clear what they write and according to what patterns. Most often it turns out rubbish. It doesn’t even help that they are transferable. This does not guarantee anything at all. So we practically do not have any state policy in this matter. And when attempts arise, it is so transformed, then, as far as I know, virtually all the organizers of these events shy away from the words “to give a lecture at some university.” To do this, you need to make a pass for outsiders 50 people who will come to the lecture, and this is such a super task that it is easier not to get involved in this, it is easier to rent an office. Everything is so bureaucratic in our country that at the state level it is so inflexible, clumsy and wretched … We have authorities, ministries, cultural committees, academicians and others, but they have no idea what popularization is. They did not attend these events, do not read popular books, do not watch popular videos in Yutubchik, they do not keep up with the times at all. At best, they remember how small they were and saw something like that in 1965. And that is not a fact in fact. And in the Soviet Union, all this was quite centralized. The same society “Knowledge” was engaged in popularization. It still exists, big money is poured into it, it even reports on something, but has anyone ever heard that it exists?
I even heard their report at a meeting of the Commission for the Popularization of Science. They do it in a very pretentious way. It makes an impression on the superiors, but I go everywhere, they did not invite me anywhere. Once, however, they gave a prize. And then someone on VKontakte sent me a message: “Do you know that the Knowledge Society is holding a competition for the best popularizer?” There was a simple registration procedure, but no one knew about it. I was one of three people who applied and, naturally, won. But all this was expressed in the fact that they gave me a prize, I went to them, signed some piece of paper, they did not even look at me. Some aunts are sitting, filling out some papers and shifting them from left to right. What is the activity of the Knowledge Society? And they have more funding than all the popularizers combined. Therefore, I do not really believe in any official ways [of popularizing science]. Although some say that if you practice hard, you can knock something out. For example, in Togliatti there is a Community of Young Scientists. Igor Vlasenko is the most active character there. And so he somehow knows how to kick money out of the state. He is so stubborn that he is ready to fill out some grants and sign some papers, because he himself worked in this system and knows where to “hit”. But the majority simply do not know this, and for ordinary popularizers it is practically unrealistic.
Is this just a Russian problem or is there a similar situation in the West?
The concept of the West is extensible. I don’t know much about Europe. I have a friend Valya Rosina in Germany. She said that they had nothing there and she tried to organize something similar in Germany among the Russians who had left to live there. And to be honest, I don’t really know how much they have their own. At our recent gathering of “Anthropogenesis” in St. Petersburg, where we launched the Science Station project, there was a connection with Nengo, a Kenyan anthropologist who now lives in the United States. He said that in the States there is nothing even close to our popularization. I’m not sure if he knows how we have, because he was not here, but nonetheless. There are popularizers there, but they are more showmen. The same Tyson, for example, was tried to be invited to our forum, but his invitation costs 50 thousand bucks. The idea ended there. That is, they already have a big business, and as far as I understand, there is no popularization like ours, so that a person comes from the street.
Scientists, as a rule, are always atheists, but atheism is very different. What is your atheism based on?
Atheism is realism. It is based on the fact that there is reality and we study it. It is wrong to define atheism as the denial of God. What to deny it, if first you still need to prove its existence. That is, it is not atheism that denies the existence of God, such atheism proves him. Well, they won’t see any success yet, really. Atheism does not care about all these gods, it quietly studies reality.
In 2004, the scientist Dean Hammer published the book “The Gene of God: How Faith Is Anchored in Our Genes.” Does this “religious gene” really exist?
“Gene of religiosity” – this is loudly said, of course. The tendency to believe the words of another person is evolutionarily beneficial, because when ancient people since the time of the Australopithecus, that is, not even people yet, lived in small groups, in fact, a family, they had no reason not to trust their family. Therefore, trust was such a tough evolutionary advantage: if I trust others, they trust me, we are a close-knit team and we will win everyone. This is where the roots of religion grow. That is, some kind of “glitch” begins, according to Dokkins – a meme: before you go catching buffalo, you need to bump your forehead against a palm tree three times. Some bearded grandfather, who went crazy, came up with this, but no one has protection from this meme and everyone believes him, because before the grandfather used to say: before pulling honey out of the hive, you need to fumigate it with smoke, and it works. Someone did not fumigate with smoke – he was bitten. Grandfather is a fine fellow, he is right, he has a beard, authority. And if he said that three times with his forehead on the palm tree, then it should be so. Here religion emerges instantly. And then already – who will eat how many fly agarics.
Share labor theory of anthropogenesis ?
Engels’ labor concept is a bit of the 19th century. It has, of course, been irrelevant for a long time, in the sense that Engels understood it. He understood it as a transition from monkey to man, and he had a very simple concept: first there was a wild monkey on a tree, then she began to use stones and sticks, and became a man. Now we understand that the process took at least 4 million years. This is, to put it mildly, dofiga. Engels did not even know that the Earth had existed so much, therefore, in its pure form, his concept “does not roll” in any way. But, on the other hand, labor activity was necessary for the emergence of the genus Homo in Australopithecus, if Australopithecus are considered monkeys. From the moment they began to use tools, they underwent very powerful changes in the structure of the hand, jaw, brain, and behavior. Our entire culture is a tool activity. In this sense, it is correct. For Engels, this was only a hypothesis, but the role of labor was undoubtedly. Everything is built on this. Without tools, a person is not very much a person. Biologically, yes, genetics does not change, and mentally and functionally a non-equipment person is not a person. Therefore, when we are surrounded by mega-robots who will perform all labor operations for us, we will cease to be humans.
Alexander Sokolov in his book “Myths about evolution person “ refutes the concept of” matriarchy “, which was widespread in ancient society. Do you share this view?
Matriarchy never existed. This is a hypothetical concept dreamed up from the ceiling in the 19th century. There are no grounds for it, I recommend everyone to read Cabo on this topic, which he painted so that there is nowhere else to go. He is an expert on Australia and Oceania, in his books he has laid out on the shelves where this concept came from and why it arose. There was a lot of pathos, conceit and the desire to pass off wishful thinking – and the concept of matriarchy came about. This concept is never true and no matriarchy existed in nature.
The brain and intellectual abilities of a person. How did meat food affect the development of the human brain and everything else?
The point is the following. Australopithecus ate plant foods from about 4 to 3 million years ago. In the interval from 3 to 2 million years ago, people began to eat more meat. This was due to climate change, draining, savvanization. They began to eat more meat, and in order to eat meat, you need to be more intellectual: meat is not grass, it runs away, and some fangs and claws have been gone for a long time, because all ancestors are herbivorous, you need to make tools to get this meat. This is also a reason to develop the brain. On the other hand, meat is easier to chew, therefore, the jaw chewing apparatus changes (muscles and ligaments are reduced) and there is a “technical” possibility of enlarging the brain. If the skull becomes lighter, the brains can become larger, the mass of the head will remain. Moreover, the brain grows twice as fast, because the density of the bones and jaw muscles is twice that of the brain. There is a need and there is an opportunity. By the time of 2 to 1.5 million years, our ancestors step over the “brain” Rubicon: the brain size becomes from 700 to 900 grams.
It was such a rare moment when all our “competitors” crouched or went into some kind of “specialization”. Before that, let’s say, pigs were tough competitors, but they became herbivores. Baboons kicked us out of the gatherer niche – and we lost the evolutionary race. The number of hyenas has become sharply smaller – the niche of scavengers has been freed. For some small moment in half a million years, a beggar of small scavengers and predators was released. Our ancestors homo took it. Indeed, meat influenced the development of the chewing system and the brain. By the way, the tools of labor then appear – about 2 million 600 thousand years ago. The most ancient tools were used for cutting meat.
How does human consciousness arise?
I should give you a course anthropogenesis. There is my lecture “The human body from the Cambrian to the present day”, everything is detailed there, when and what appeared. From the first nervous system to the tubular nervous system, to animal-like reptiles, then the first primates, tree climbing, long childhood, learning, omnivorousness, descent to the ground, labor activity, and then intra-group competition. Roughly speaking, if there are even 20 people in a group, and one of them is a moron and the other is a genius, then in primitive conditions a genius will have more offspring. If life is pretty harsh, then the moron will simply die. This is not a city where he can survive. The selection is aimed at increasing intelligence, and it went quite violently even regardless of the climate, predators, prey. Simply because there is internal competition in the population. Somewhere about 400 thousand years ago, all the key moments appear in the form of fire, compound tools, burials, art. And 50 thousand years ago or a little earlier they cannot be distinguished from us.
The so-called leaps of evolution. How important are they and how do they affect the development of species?
Evolution goes not because it goes on, but because conditions change, respectively, as conditions change, so do the signs that are adjusted to these conditions. That is, the whole evolution is the adaptation of momentary possibilities to the conditions of the environment. If environmental conditions change quickly and abruptly, then either everyone dies, which has happened regularly, or they will adapt. Since conditions also change according to different parameters, and you can adapt differently, the changes are very smooth and gradual, and there are quite sharp ones. It may also be that some of the signs change, while others do not. In the evolution of primates, for example, teeth changed first, then arms and legs, and last – brains. Therefore, we can see that at this time the limbs change, but the brains do not. The jump also takes some time. The standard time for a vigorous change is several million years, from 2 to 10. This is, for example, the origin of turtles, mammals, pterosaurs, whales. The appearance of a person is the same. That is, 10 million years ago – a monkey in the trees, now – people. Therefore, the leap is not that the monkey’s father and mother had a homo child, but each time the child is like a parent, but slightly different. But when we project it onto millions of years, then count to this one million years first, and then you will understand what it is. Then the changes are already noticeable and significant.
Scientists often argue about the heredity of some human abilities. For example, some argue that mental abilities are passed on from parents, others speak of the exclusive influence of the environment. Is intelligence inherited?
Potential disposition is inherited, and the specific implementation is highly dependent on conditions. We practically do not have congenital forms of behavior, so if a person genetically has 3 kg of brains (this does not happen, but let’s say) and he has all his biochemistry and cardiovascular system built up, but at the same time he lives in a damp basement, chained to the wall, then he will not be an intellectual in any way. And if he has so-so potential opportunities, but he is taught by the best teachers, he has all the textbooks, manuals, films and a reversed environment, he will be smarter than average, because they tried at him.
Predisposition depends on a million conditions, up to illness in childhood and how much sun shone on the child. For example, how much a child touches something with pens in childhood depends on how early he starts to speak. In genes it is not particularly “written”. But intelligence can also manifest itself in different ways. If he speaks worse, this does not mean that he will count worse. If he is excellent at counting, it does not mean that he draws well. For example, I think so myself and in mathematics I have a three in my diploma. So what? I have been doing statistics all my life, because anthropology is statistics. But for this there is a computer that counts everything. I am an anthropologist, I have “five” in this subject, although in mathematics I am stupid. What definition will you give to intelligence and how will you measure it, and no one has yet learned how to do it, that will be the answer.
Is it true that jellyfish is immortal? And are there any immortal beings on Earth?
It depends on what kind, they are different. There are hydro-jellyfish, for example. In general, there are plenty of immortal beings. In principle, all living beings are immortal in fact, only some are immortal individually, while others are not. If you take some one-celled creature – an amoeba, for example, it divides in half, and this is not death. Therefore, the amoeba is the same individual that was in the Docembria about 4 billion years ago. And each of us is essentially the same. We are all made of one cell – a zygote, which has fused from two cells, and those are derived from some other cells. In principle, we have mortal parts: 99% of the organism is mortal, and there are immortal cells – sex. They have a chance to be immortal if there are offspring. In this sense, our immortality is in children. Therefore, if these cells with DNA “moved” to the next generation, they are immortal. These are the same cells. They have some of their own properties and on this the whole evolution, in essence, is built. Strictly speaking, therefore, everyone is potentially immortal.
Can you single out some of the main problems of modern anthropology?
There are now three anchor points. The first stage is the time interval from 7 to 4 to million years ago, when people climbed off the tree. That is, this is a transition from completely arboreal to more or less terrestrial. This is the time of getting down from the trees. There are finds there, but very few of them. The second stage – from 3 to 2 million years ago, when Australopithecines became homo, that is, people. It was then that tool activity, big brains, the transition to omnivorousness appeared. There are finds here, but they are also few. The third period is from 200 to 50 thousand years ago, when sapiens were obtained from highly archaic African characters. In essence, the appearance of our species. Everything is better there with finds, they are, but you always want more. In Africa, from 100 thousand years to 50 thousand years, there are many finds, but these are mainly jaws with teeth, but I would like solid and beautiful skulls. And so that they are not only from Africa, but a little everywhere. These are the three most mega-node moments.